Monthly Archives: November 2010

Giving Thanks!

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s time to focus on all that we have to be thankful for. Family, friends, health, a job, the possibilities of a new job, and the excitement of an upcoming year full of new opportunities are just a few to name. When I stop to think about it, I really have a lot for which to give thanks.
As you gather with family and friends tomorrow, take some time to stop and reflect on this year. Also, dream about what you want to accomplish in 2011.

So, what are you grateful for this year? Take a minute to share your thoughts with us!
From all of us at Express Employment Professionals, we wish you a very happy and joyous Thanksgiving.

You Wore What to Work? Worst Winter Wardrobe Choices Around the Office


Rain or shine, snow or sleet, business continues.  And so does corporate culture.

Dressing for a day at the office can be complicated by the seasons, but bad weather is no excuse for dressing inappropriately: with few exceptions, you’re still expected to follow the dress code.

Casual vs. cozy

It’s tempting to dress solely for warmth and comfort in winter, as the days grow shorter and chilly temperatures have you reaching for mittens and scarves. But, depending on your industry, there’s a definite limit to how cozy you can be around the office.

Your company may have a business casual policy or allow for bending the rules in particularly treacherous conditions, but neither is likely to last all season long.

What not to wear this winter

Avoid turning heads for all the wrong reasons by steering clear of these winter wardrobe snafus:

Sweatpants and shirts: These ultra-casual hybrids between day clothes and pajamas are purposely devoid of all professional qualities. Nothing says, “My alarm didn’t go off,” like a rumpled pair of cotton sweats at the office. Even with holiday prints and whimsical graphics, they’re better left to weekends and sick days spent at home.

Jogging suits: If your outfit is more suited to the locker room than the board room, it’s probably not appropriate. Velour, spandex, polyester – the variety of synthetic fabrics available in coordinating colors still doesn’t bring them up to business casual status. Bottom line: your co-workers shouldn’t see you in yoga pants and a hoodie, at least not at your desk.

Outdated holiday sweaters: You remember them: red and green panels, kissing reindeer, candy cane stripes. They may still be kitschy cute, but in case you haven’t heard, these once-popular knits are now passé. Argyle or solid cardigans that coordinate with a tailored look are in style again this year and can help pull any outfit together.   

Snow boots: Hefty boots and galoshes are great for crossing the parking lot. However, they’re not a substitute for loafers or heels once you’re safely inside. Check your company’s dress code for its policy on dress boots; they’re not always considered appropriate either.   

Parkas: Oversized winter coats aren’t meant to be worn indoors all day. Even the fur-trimmed variety are no substitute for business jackets.  If you’re cold at your desk, chances are you’re not the only one; speak to maintenance about adjusting the building’s temperature. Meanwhile, a pashmina, scarf, or discreet lap blanket can help you relieve the chill without making you look as though you were just leaving.

In general, a good rule of thumb is that if a piece of clothing is more casual than business, it’s probably not suitable for work. Ask your employer if you have doubts about what’s appropriate at your office. Classic styles, after all, trump cozy any business day of the year.

Less Than Perfect is Perfectly OK

I am a runner. I am competitive. I especially enjoy running outside on a nice day, feeling the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair, and hearing the sound of my running shoes on the pavement. Once I know what distance I’m capable of running, I push myself to improve my time. I start thinking, how can I improve my stride? My pace? My breathing and posture? For me, it’s a challenge of setting a new personal record. Then, I think to myself, wait a minute ….

Like me and running, do you find yourself striving for perfection in the day-to-day activities of your job and in life? It takes a lot of energy and effort. And when it comes down to the bottom line, all you’re really doing is striving to get somewhere you think you should be. Perfection is hard to achieve because it’s nearly impossible to obtain. But what you probably achieve in the process is a lot of stress, feelings of unmet expectations and failure, and a wandering mind that can’t stop thinking of things that went wrong or what you could have done differently.

Being less than perfect is OK. You’re only human and can only do so much. Sometimes it’s not about being the best, but learning and developing your skills to help you become better. So, the next time you feel yourself sweating the small stuff in an attempt to be the best of the best at your job, try following these tips.

Discover what you love. Find what it is that brings you joy. When you have a passion for something, you will find that you don’t have to work so hard to get things accomplished. You will be more of a natural at it, not needing to put so much effort into becoming the best.   

Learn from your mistakes – and move on. Everyone makes mistakes. But the grand thing is, life goes on. So, learn something from the situation and become better because of it. Don’t dwell on what you did wrong because you’ll spend so much time in the past that you’ll miss out on the present.

Set limits for yourself. Attempting to achieve perfection can be a time waster. Be realistic in the goals you set. Along with your manager, create deadlines for your projects. Knowing when things are due will help you adjust your schedule accordingly to get things done. Also, here are a few tips to help you finish your work week strong.

Seek out experts in your field. Is there someone in your field that would be a great source for ideas and brainstorming? When you have someone to help you talk out a project, you will find that it goes a lot smoother than trying to do all of it by yourself. Seek input – it’s not a bad thing to have some help along the way.

Take a break. At the end of the day, shut everything down and go home. Learn to leave work at work so you’re not tempted to tweak things on a project when you go home. Use that time to pursue other interests that make you happy.
Achieving the perfect run would involve a lot of time – cross training, eating healthy all the time, getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, correct warm-ups and cool-downs, stretching, etc. Being focused on this ALL the time would not make running the break I need and enjoy now. So, instead, I’m just going to enjoy the moment and take in the sights along the way.

6 Ways to Advance Your Career in 60 Seconds or Less

Moving up the career ladder can sometimes seem like an impossible feat – more like climbing the highest mountain than reaching for the next step. But steps are exactly what it takes to get where you are going. With each step you take forward – even a little one – you’re that much closer to your goal. So, in honor of Career Development Month, here are seven steps you can take in 60 seconds or less to help you develop your career and move up the ladder.

1. Rehearse your elevator speech.
As the saying goes, practice does make perfect. So, take a minute to practice your elevator speech because you never know when you’re going to need a short, targeted message to grab the interest of a potential employer.

2. Get a professional e-mail address.
If you’re looking to advance your career in a new job, make sure you have a professional e-mail address to help your résumé make a great first impression to employers. You’ll be surprised by what a difference it makes.

3. Type out a quick e-mail to request a letter of reference from a past employer.
A glowing letter of recommendation is a must for job seekers. So, take just a moment to e-mail or call a past employer and request a letter of recommendation you can use in your job hunt. They can even post their reference on your LinkedIn page! 

4. Scan your résumé for typos.
Typos on a résumé are an absolute don’t. So, take the time to clean yours up by scanning your résumé for any errors before sending it out to potential employers. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to add some power words to give your résumé the punch it needs to get you noticed. 

5. Schedule a meeting to discuss a career path with your employer.
It may seem a little intimidating, but if you’re interested in climbing the ladder at your current company, schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss potential career path. It’s important to understand your options and to know what it will take to get you there. So, take the first step and get a meeting set up now.

6. Scan your Facebook page.
When you’re looking to advance your career with a new job, first impressions are everything. Many employers now search social media sites to find out what they can about potential applicants. So, if your Facebook page isn’t set to private or you don’t have a separate page for professional purposes, make sure you take a minute to scan your profile for any content or pictures that could be deemed unprofessional.  

There are lots of ways you can work to develop your career, whether it’s checking out some books on leadership at your local library or taking some classes at a local college. Get started today by taking a few quick steps forward, and you’ll be surprised how far you get.

Ready for New Year’s Resolutions? How to Accomplish Everything on Your List This Year

“The longest journey starts with a single step.” - Lao Tzu
Gearing up for the new year

It’s that time of year again: new calendars, party plans, and “Auld Lang Syne.”

Counting down to the new year just isn’t complete without also making at least one resolution. Chances are there are a few issues you’d like to work on in 2011, broad personal or professional objectives that might top your official resolution list this year.

Turning those broad items into attainable goals is, of course, the real challenge.

Planning for success: how to set short-term goals with long-term objectives
Big picture vs. small steps

Setting a goal often starts with an idea of the “big picture,” the end result you want to achieve. A sense of accomplishment, sometimes at a key moment, usually lets you know you’ve met the objective. Students, for example, daydream about graduation, while job seekers likely imagine signing on the dotted line to accept their ideal position. That big promotion and what it might mean for your career might also be easy to envision.

While the mental image of achieving what you set out to accomplish might seem clear, exactly how to arrive at that specific end result can be less obvious.   

Reaching goals is a process that requires time, self-evaluation, and sustained effort. Taking the right approach and maintaining motivation along the way can be major challenges. Knowing how to stay on track can help make any goal a reality.

Tips for managing your goals

Define them: Write down exactly what you want to do and what success looks like to you. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Don’t forget to identify how you’ll define goal completion. Be realistic about what’s possible and when. Learn more about SMART goals.

Identify first steps:  Outline a series of short-term goals that lead to long-term objectives. Assess what you need to do and be specific about details. For example, if you want to enhance your communication skills, penciling in “Communicate better at work” probably isn’t specific enough. Instead, try researching local public speaking clubs, finding university classes at a nearby campus, or scheduling a first presentation so that a target date is established from the beginning.

Find support: Let others know what you’re working to achieve. Talk regularly with people who can encourage you and will keep you accountable. If you can find another person with the same goal, try to tackle it together. Friends, family, or a support group can help keep you motivated.

Try small but significant changes: A small change can make a big difference. Trade one behavior for another that aligns with the goal, rather than trying to eliminate a big issue all at once. Know that what you’re doing is going to take time. Develop your skills and take gradual steps.

Revamp goals as needed: Take a step back and look at the progress you’re making. By assessing your progress, you can decide if you need to restructure your goals to better accomplish them.

Reward mini-milestones: Celebrate reaching short-term goals in a meaningful way. Make the reward something you can look forward to. Changing your habits is often the real key to achieving your goals, so choose positive incentives that reinforce what you’ve already done.

Give yourself a break: Recognize that the goal process may not always go as planned and give yourself permission to try something else. Keep an open mind and look into different options if your original plan doesn’t work in the way you thought it would.

New year, new you

Get your new year off to a great start by making your resolution list today. Take the time to determine what steps will help get 2011 off to a running start by following the tips above. Do you have others to share? Post in the comments section.

From Seasonal Worker to Full-Time Staffer: A Guide to Get the Job

If you’re on the job hunt this holiday season, there’s good news that can impact you now: according to’s third annual survey, overall seasonal hiring is expected to increase 26 % from last year. 

The National Retail Federation forecasts increased sales in response to the economy’s recovery, as shoppers may be more willing to spend this year than in recent Christmases past. As a result of the predicted uptick, businesses will need extra workers to keep customers content in spite of the usual hustle and bustle.  A seasonal job can be the perfect opportunity to show why you’d make a great full-time employee.

Make your own opportunity.

Positions like seasonal work that get your foot in the door are a great way to train quickly, learn about the business, and fill a need. Think of a seasonal job as an evaluative period to test your skills and prove that you’re up to any challenge. It’s also a chance for you to see if the organization is somewhere you’d like to work full-time. Making yourself indispensable is the key to being retained long after the garland and wreaths come down.

Tips to make any seasonal worker shine.

  • Be on time: Perhaps more during the holidays than ever, employers need workers to show up when they’re scheduled. Think of how being on time can positively impact others: it lets your co-workers get a break, prevents lines from forming, and reduces that harried ambience. More than that, punctuality shows that you’re responsible and can be trusted to effectively manage professional obligations in addition to your personal life.
  • Show genuine interest: If you don’t want this job to be just a temporary position, don’t treat it like one. Learn all you can about the company and how to perform tasks in an efficient, precise manner that’ll come in handy during crunch time, i.e., Black Friday, the days after Christmas, etc. You’ll show that you can adapt quickly and perform well under pressure.
  • Tap into holiday cheer: You may hear “Jingle Bells” played on repeat for the next several weeks, but do your best to push past that stagnancy by remembering what you love about the holidays. Surveys consistently list attitude as the best attribute of a seasonal worker. Stay motivated by focusing on the big picture: how to make yourself stand out.
    Respect others: No matter how great the rush, show respect to customers, managers, and co-workers alike. There’s no excuse for surly service. Show that you’re the team member others can rely on to stay calm and helpful, no matter what comes your way.

 Get that job or get a great reference.

The characteristics employers typically seek – being responsible, calm under pressure, and able to handle multiple tasks – can be demonstrated in an immediate way. Even if your manager can’t hire you full-time at the end of the season, he or she will likely be willing to write a glowing letter of recommendation. If you build your reputation from the first day, you may not soon see your last, so do your best to make that seasonal job count.

Is Your Job Search Too Broad?

Looking for a new job can be a time-consuming task, full of twists and turns along the way. To better help you search for a job, some advice is to focus on niches that interest you. This will help you narrow your search and dedicate more time to finding the right job for your skills.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many industries have seen an increase in employment. So, you might want to see if any of these areas are of interest to you!

  • Employment in computer systems and related services increased by 8,000 in October. Overall since June of 2009, this niche has seen an employment increase by 53,000
  • Professions in health care increased by 24,000 jobs in October.
  • Employment in retail saw an October increase of 28,000, particularly among automobile dealers, which increased by more than 6,000 and electronics and appliance stores which increased by over 5,000.
  • Employment in manufacturing and construction is holding steady. 

As you continue with your job search or begin to embark on a job hop, be sure you have a focus. Here a few tips to help you make yourself more marketable to the industry you’re wanting to work in.

  • Tailor your résumé to the industry. If there are specific skills you have that would be a great fit for a niche job, list them on your résumé.
  • Get to know people. Sometimes getting a job depends not on what you know, but who you know. Try to get plugged into networking meetings where you could make new contacts to help get your foot in the door.
  • Utilize the internet. In addition to sites like Monster and CareerBuilder, also check out online niche job boards to locate jobs through specific search criteria. Here is an example of a website to check out for identifying niche markets.

Knowing which job industries are hiring and what you have a passion for doing can have a great impact on your job search success. When you narrow down what you’re looking for, your job hunt tactics can become more direct, helping you to better hit the bull’s-eye and find the right job for you.